Itinerary: Cape Town – Sesriem (Namib Desert) – Cape Town
Copyright Great African Outdoors CC, 2006
Cape Town – Cape Peninsula – Stellenbosch / Winelands, km 250, Tar Road
Amongst the most popular travel destinations in South Africa is the western Cape region with Cape Town as its centre. Although it's a small area relative to other cosmopolitan cities, it attracts millions of visitors from all over the world every year.
Cape Town is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world as it is surrounded by glorious landscapes with unique vegetation, beautiful mountains and stunning wide beaches,
especially on the Cape Peninsula, at False Bay and on the West Coast.
In May 1998, the entire of the Cape Peninsula was proclaimed a National Park for its extraordinary natural beauty, its unique flora and fauna and its special historical and cultural significance. The new Cape Peninsula National Park extends from Signal Hill in the north down to Cape Point and includes the mountain ranges of the area and the coastal stretches.
The former Cape of Good Hope Reserve in the south of the peninsula became part of the new National Park as well as Table Mountain and the Silvermine resort. The greatest attraction of the Nature Reserve continues to be the southern part of Simon's Town down to the Cape of Good Hope. Here one can go on long walks through the Fynbos landscape, particularly beautiful in spring when the wildflowers bloom, and many animals can be observed: many different species of antelope, reptiles, ostriches, zebras and numerous seabirds.
A trip to Cape Point is a must for any Cape Town visitor. The southern end of the
Cape Peninsula boasts two points of interest really, the Cape of Good Hope and the more southernly and a bit higher situated Cape Point. However, the most southern point of Africa is to be found 150 kilometres towards the southeast.
There, at Cape Agulhas, the two oceans, the Indian and the Atlantic 'meet'.
For the early se afarers the Cape of Good Hope marked the turning point in their luck because once the " Cape of Storms", as Bartholomeus Diaz called it in 1488, had been passed, the battle against the sea was basically won.
Stellenbosch, the second oldest town in South Africa, was developed from a settlement of Dutch immigrants to whom arable land on the banks of the Eerste Rivier (first river) was given. The first govenor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel, called a small island in the Eerste Rivier where he and his men had made a camp in 1679, Stellenbosch, meaning Stel's bush.
Winelands – Wellington - Clanwilliam, km 300, Tar Road
Clanwilliam is one of the oldest towns in South Africa. In 1732, the Voortrekkers, the first Dutch farmers, settled along the Olifants River and in 1820, the English administration of the Cape established a Magistrate's Court here. In the beginning, the settlement grew very slowly, and a fire in 1901 destroyed almost all of the houses.
Today, Clanwilliam is a flourishing town and the centre of Rooibos tea production which grows exclusively in the sandy valleys of the Cedarberg.
It is being centrally marketed in Clanwilliam. Wine and citrus is also grown here.
The fertile soil could only be intensively used, after a dam was constructed at the lower Olifants River. Its water runs through a wide-spread canal system to the fields.
Clanwilliam – Springbock, km 350, Tar Road
Springbok is the capital of Namaqualand. The town takes its name from the large herds of springbok which used to pass through the arid valley to drink water
from the spring. The herds were driven away when copper resources were discovered near the small settlement.
In the middle of the last century, the area started to be mined,
and a railway line to the coast was built for the transport of the ore. The railway line has been dismantled long ago, but the old steam-engine can still be seen in the mine museum of Nababeep, some kilometres out of Springbok.
There one can also visit one of the last remaining working copper mines.
Most of the mines in this area were closed down. Springbok is the centre of the wildflower region, and each year in spring the town experiences a great invasion of tourists. Then the small camping site is booked to the last spot, and the visitors stream into the Goegab Nature Reserve.
Even out of season, this nature reserve offers an interesting insight into the unique plant world of Namaqualand.
Springbock - Namibia – Fish River Canyon, km 350, ( km 100 on gravel)
Namibia - in the south-west of Africa between the Orange river in the south and the Kunene river in the north - is an arid, rough land, a different world, but still inviting, strangely familiar and easy to travel. Namibia is a photographer's dreamland, a land of contrasts and clear colours. It is not the right place for those, who like busy beaches and have
fun in crowds. But if you love nature, stillness, grandiose landscapes, desert and expanse, you will become attached to Namibia for live. It is one of the most scarcely populated countries on earth.
The Fish River is, at 650 kilometres, the longest river in Namibia. Its source lies in the eastern Naukluft Mountains and flows south-west of Ai-Ais into the Oranje.
The Fish River canyon, situated along the lower reaches of the Fish River, is one of the most impressive natural beauties in the southern part of Namibia.
It developed predominantly during the pluvial times - a rainy climatic epoch - many millions of years ago. With a depth of up to 550 metres, the Fish River Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world, before the Grand Canyon in America.
The enormous gorge meanders along a distance of approx. 160 kilometres through the fissured Koubis massif all the way down to Ai-Ais. The canyon starts near Seeheim, is 161 kilometres long and ends at Ai-Ais. The Fish River Canyon probably formed about 500 million years ago. However, the gorge was not only created by water erosion, but also through the collapse of the valley bottom due to movements in the earth's crust.
Fish River Canyon – Marienthal, km 370, Gravel
Mariental lies 260 kilometres south of Windhoek on the B1. The little town provides for the surrounding farms and Nama communities. With the construction of the Hardap Dam in 1962, irrigation farming on a considerable scale was introduced to the area causing an upswing for the town of Mariental.
Nowadays, mainly melons, lucerne, wine and maize are being cultivated below the dam. The Hardap Dam is the biggest of its kind in Namibia with a water surface area of about 25 sqkms and an 862 metre long dam wall. It dams up the waters of the Fish River, the only river in the country's interior that flows just about all year round, although carrying very low quantities of water during the dry season.
Marienthal – Sosusvlei / Sesriem, km 260, Grave
The Sossusvlei, Namibia's famous highlight in the heart of the Namib Desert, is a huge clay pan, enclosed by giant sand dunes.
Some of the spectacular hills of sand are, at a height of 300 metres, the highest
in the world. Only after a heavy rainfall, which is a rare event in this area, does the vlei fill with water. As the clay layers hardly allow any water infiltration, a turquoise lake will remain for quite some time.
The dunes of the Namib desert have developed over a period of many millions of years. It is thought that the vast quantities of sand were deposited into the Alantic Ocean by the Orange river. This material was subsequently moved northwards by the Benguela current to be dumped back onto the land by the surf.
The coastal dunes developed as a result of this and were shifted further and further inland by the wind. Wind continuously reshapes the patterns of the huge dunes of the Namib desert. It timelessly forces the grains of sand on the flat windward slope upwards to the crest of the dune. Here they fall down in the wind shade. The leeward slope is therefore always considerably steeper than the windward side.
Day 7The Namib-Naukluft Park is Namibia's largest nature reserve, about 50.000 sqkms in size. It includes a 100 to150 km broad belt of land that stretches along the coastline from the Swakop valley in the north, towards the road B4 to Luederitz in the south. Most parts of this enormous area are not accessible to man. One can only visit a small stretch north of the Kuiseb river: the Naukluft Mountains and the Sossusvlei in the central dune fields.
Sesriem (no riding, Visit Sesriem.
Sesriem – Aus, km 340. Gravel
The little place of Aus lies some 120 kilometres east of Lüderitz on the National Road B4, which connects Luederitz and Keetmanshoop - one of the most scenic routes in Namibia.
At the Garub waterhole a roofed observation stand has been put up by conservationists, from where one can closely view the extraordinary animals
that have become adapted to the extreme desert conditions. Nobody knows exactly where the wild horses originated from, but they are supposedly descendents of those from the German Schutztruppe. Another theory proposes their origins to lie in the former stud of Baron Hansheinrich von Wolf of the Farm Duwisib south of Maltahöhe.
Aus – Keetmanshoop, km 200, Tar Road
Worth a visit is the old "Kaiserliche Postamt" built in the year 1910, which now houses the Tourist Information.Today the town consists of 20 000 inhabitants and is a nice place to stop over, as there are some comfortable hotels and a caravan park.
About 13 kilometres north-east of Keetmanshoop lies the spectacular and much photographed Kokerboom or quiver tree forest on the farm Gariganus.
The site has been declared a National Monument.
The quiver tree or "Kokerboom" is indigenous to the hot and dry southern part of Namibia. The plants are succulents and can reach a height of up to 9 metres in height. They have adapted to the extreme environmental conditions by storing water in their trunks. The tree only blossoms for the first time after 20 to 30 years and can reach 300 years of age.
The wood is very light and spongy inside. And because the trunk and branches can be easily hollowed out, they were used as quivers by the bushmen (San people) who formerly inhabited this area.
Keetmanshoop – Kalaharie (Kalagadie National Park), km 350, Gravel.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park - the former Kalahari Gemsbok National Park - in the northernmost corner of South Africa is still one of the best kept secrets in South African tourism, attracting 50,000 visitors annually. From any starting point, the journey to the remote nature reserve is a long drive over dusty roads. The park provides an insight into the fascinating ecosystem of the Kalahari with its
orange-red sand dunes and a flora and fauna specially adapted to the arid conditions in the Kalahari desert. The Kalahari park was declared a National Park in 1931, mainly to put a stop to the destructive game poaching. After the amalgamation with the bordering Gemsbok National Park in Botswana in 1998 the reserve is now called Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and comprises an area of more than 36,000 sq km.
Access to the park (South African part) in the south leads through the restcamp Twee Rivieren ("Two Rivers").
Excellent accommodation is available here with a swimming pool, restaurant and other amenities. The two main routes through the National Park start here and run along the - usually dry - riverbeds of the Nossob and Auob rivers to the remote restcamps Mata-Mata and Nossob. In distances of 5 to 20 kilometres, one can find waterholes along the riverbeds, most of them fed by wind pumps.
Here is where the game gathers, especially in the early hours of the morning and late in the afternoon. The cooler winter months from April to September are more suitable for a visit to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park than are the very hot summer months, when temperatures might rise above the 40° C mark. The most favourable time for game observation is right after the rainy season, which usually ends in March or April. If you don't mind the heat, January and February are good months to spot lions.
The border is marked only by whitewashed stones, so that the animals can roam freely through both parks.
Kalaharie – Upington, km 260, Tar Road
Upington, on the banks of the Orange River, is the economic and traffic centre of the Northern Cape and the gateway to the Kalahari desert. For travellers to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, this is the last stop to do the shopping in well stocked supermarkets and replenish the provisions. Those coming from the Kalahari can enjoy the green lawns and the
luxury of a swimming pool after a dusty desert ride. The town developed from a missionary station, founded here in 1871. Today, it houses a little museum (Kalahari Oranje Museum). In the middle of a dry semi-desert area an oasis has been created using the waters of the Orange River for irrigation. A narrow ribbon of fertile land runs for over 280 kilometres on both sides of the river. The main crops are wine grapes, as well as citrus, wheat and vegetables. The grapes are exported to Europe as table fruits or used in the local wine production.Upington is the hottest town in South Africa. In summer temperatures often rise to over 40 degrees.
Upington – Augrabies Falls National Park, km 160, Tar Road
The Orange River drops 191 metres at the Augrabies Falls. The thundering cascade of water led the original Hottentot residents to believe that evil spirits were active here, and so they named the waterfall Ankoerebis,
"place of big noises", from which the
Trek Boers, who settled here later on, derived the name Augrabies.
Especially in late summer, when the river carries a lot of water, the roaring waters fully justify that name. New waterfalls then form at the sidewalls, and the air is filled with dense spraying fog. The gorge at the Augrabies Falls is 240 m deep and 18 km long. It is a most impressive example of granite erosion. When the whole landmass of the area lifted about 500 million years ago, the Orange River slowly started to dig its bed into the ground. The Augrabies Falls National Park, an hour from Upington, comprises an area of 820 sq km and stretches along the Orange River.
The vegetation is suited to the arid desert climate. The Kokerboom, or Quiver Tree grow here. They are succulents and can store huge amounts of water in their stems and so survive long periods of drought. The park contains a game reserve with rhinos as the main attraction.
Augrabies – Calvinia, km 470, Tar Road
Calvinia lies off the beaten tourist tracks, some 120 km east of Vanrhynsdorp. Time seems to stand still in the little rural town which is why nostalgic Calvinia is worth a visit. The town at the Oorlogskloof River was founded in the year 1847, first under the name "Hantam", a Khoi-Khoi word meaning "Mountain where the red edible flowers bloom".
After the building of the first Dutch-Reformed church the minister insisted in changing the name to Calvinia in honour of the Swiss reformer Johannes Calvin. Calvinia lies at the foot of the Hantam mountain range at a height of about 1000 metres above sea level. The vegetation mainly equals Karoo Flora, but some fynbos plants can also be found in here. Calvinia is the trading and service centre for the merino and dorper sheepbreeders in the vivinity. Over the last years this agricultural sector was badly hit by the falling of the wool prices. Lately, though, the prices start to recover.
Calvinia – Cape Town. km 400, Tar Road
Cape Town is a city like no other. Its a contrast of vibrant activity and meditative relaxation. She often compared to Rio de Janeiro, Sydney and San Francisco. Many travellers, however, find her the most beautiful city in the world. The position of South Africa's "Mother City" is at the foot of the mighty Table Mountain massif, amidst a National Park of extraordinary beauty and surrounded by two oceans, with stunning expansive beaches that enchant innumerable visitors every year.
Cape Town and Northern Cape: